Mitt Romney tried to convince Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly last night that the individual health care mandate is a conservative proposal, attributing the idea to the Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich — both of whom supported personal responsibility in health care as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s 1993 health care reform plan:
ROMNEY: Actually, I think my record as governor was a conservative record.
O’REILLY: Yes but I mean, Romneycare is not — not a conservative thing and with all due respect. The thought behind it is the government should get involved with people’s health care. That’s not a conservative position.
ROMNEY: Actually, the idea as you know came from conservatives at the Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich and the idea was this we have today in this country an insistence — insistence that government does treat people. That people that don’t have insurance are given free care by government. That was what was going on in my state. And I said gosh, this is a problem. We’re — we’re giving to people based upon the premise that government owes these people health care for free. That doesn’t make sense. Personal responsibility makes more sense where people should take responsibility for getting their own insurance rather than showing up at the emergency room and expecting government to pay for them.
O’REILLY: Yes but correct me if I am wrong. Personal responsibility doesn’t have much though do with Romneycare because you forced everybody to buy the insurance. And if they didn’t buy it they where sanctioned by the state.
ROMNEY: They — what they got was a — a responsibility to pick up a portion of the cost of their health insurance and which — which in the past they were getting for free.
Indeed, Romney has previously described the mandate as the “ultimate conservative idea” because it encourages able bodied individuals and families to buy insurance that will pay for their own eventual health care expenses, rather than shifting those costs to other payers throughout the health care system. As he told Newsweek in December of 2007, “I’m proud of what we’ve done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.”